Asset management and safety assessment of levees and earthen dams through comprehensive real-time field monitoring

T. Abdoun, V. Bennett, T. Desrosiers, J. Simm, M. Barendse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Assessing the health of and maintaining civil infrastructure has been an increased concern in the wake of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the summer 2007 flood events in the UK. The variability of properties within geotechnical systems makes predictions of soil behavior extremely difficult, especially when soil models are not calibrated with field-measured performance. Unfortunately the current state of the art in geotechnical systemhealth assessment is either based on very expensive monitoring systems for real-time information or on periodicmeasurement of ground surface displacements. Accordingly, a need has arisen for a system capable of in situ, real-time monitoring of levees, embankments, and other earthen structures. The work presented herein highlights the development of novel, affordable sensing technologies for use in a framework to monitor, manage and ensure the safety of geotechnical infrastructure. MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems)-based in-place inclinometer system, Measurand’s ShapeAccelArray (SAA), is now established as a sensing tool for simultaneous measurement of 3D soil acceleration and 3D ground deformation up to a depth of one hundred meters, with an accuracy of ±1.5 mm per 30 m. Each sensor array is connected to a wireless sensor node to enable real-time monitoring as well as remote sensor configuration. This system is now being further developed to include digitally integrated pore pressure measurement in the form of vibrating wire piezometers equipped with microprocessors (called SAAPs). The SAAPs are able to convert vibrating wire data to digital data downhole, and they integrate easily into the SAA system. In situ testing was conducted in a levee in England subjected to significant tidal loading (up to 6 m of fluctuation during spring tides) through collaboration with the European Union’s UrbanFlood project. In addition to the SAAs and SAAPs installed in three sections of the levee, the site was also instrumented with other sensors from Alert Solutions and TenCate, providing values for comparison. The likelihood of this levee to experience deformation and the density of instrumentation installed in the bank made this the ideal location to test the new SAAP system. The additional insight into subsurface behavior provided by the SAAPs is integral in the development of a comprehensive systemfor monitoring andmanagement of civil infrastructure. The preliminary testing indicates the suitability of this new multi-parameter system for inclusion in a multi-scale monitoring and health assessment framework, which will be implemented in New Orleans, LA in 2012.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)833-843
Number of pages11
JournalGeotechnical and Geological Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Displacement
  • Levee
  • Long-term
  • MEMS
  • Monitoring
  • Pore pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Soil Science
  • Geology


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